Even though she was recently appointed the Special Assistant to the Governor of Akwa Ibom State on Tourism,Nollywood diva, Ini Edo, has said that her loyalty to the Nigerian movie industry is unwavering. The coordinator of the first-ever Akwa Ibom State Festival, otherwise called IbomFest, shares nuggets of wisdom with aspiring actors in this interview with OVWE MEDEME. She also speaks on life in the corridors of power, plans for Ibomfest and other issues.
AS Special Assistant to a state governor, what will happen to your acting career?
I would like to state that my stint in government won’t affect my career as an actress. Since my appointment to serve my state, I have been receiving calls from producers, and actors alike to extend their hands of fellowship in building the Nigerian project. Again, I have been invited to play different roles in the movie industry, so nothing has changed.
With your appointment, what impact would you be bringing to the Nigerian movie industry?
I like to think of it as an advantage to movie producers that one of their own has a government appointment. Again; I am not the first to be so appointed in Nigeria. Other notable movie actors have been appointed and they contributed their quota to the development of the industry and this is what I aim to do.
How will you describe your work in government?
My work in government is basically to assist my state governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, in the area of tourism development. This entails how as a state we can harness the rich tourism potential into a world class money-making venture that will also attract direct foreign investment into the state and increase tourist traffic into Akwa Ibom State.
Have you faced any challenge combining it with acting?
Certainly, nothing good comes easy but I still try to do my work religiously and I put in my very best to uphold the confidence reposed in me having been so appointed to serve my state.
What is the approach of your government towards developing tourism in the state?
Our Governor, Udom Emmanuel, has a five-point agenda and among them, tourism is encapsulated in the industrialisation drive. I would like to state here that the governor is very keen in developing the vast tourism potential that abound in the state and this has given strength to his endorsement of the Ibomfest Heritage Festival which is coming up from 15th to 17thof December. For us, developing the tourism sector will increase tourist traffic to our state, increase the IGR and employ a lot of our youths and others of workable age.
What impact do you think the approach will have on the state?
The approach, I think, will further reposition the state as a tourism haven and destination of choice to discerning tourist and investors. The ripple effect will show as many unemployed people will be engaged in one form of trade or the other. Already, my office, in partnership with a tourism consulting firm, is beginning to train young people to become tourist guides to fill in the blank spaces of those who should take guests around our tourism sites.
What is so unique about Ibomfest?
Ibomfest is unique in many ways. First, its theme is Our Cultures Beyond Borders,so I would like to say it’s not a carnival of some sort.It is festival to showcase our way of life, our natural endowments, our rich cultural heritage and our most widely celebrated cuisines. Every local government area in the state is blessed with huge deposits of natural resources; all of these will be showcased to the admiration of spectators, tourists and visitors during the festival in December.
What challenges have you faced in putting the project together?
I would not call them challenges. It is all about just having the urgent need to get the right people, the right team to work with to achieve this task. That, I believe, I have and so far our team is working night and day to make sure the project succeeds. Since our governor runs an all-inclusive government, he endorsed the project after my presentations to him. Having been convinced of the economic benefits accruing to the state, he gave his nod and endorsed it.
What role will Ibomfest play in the strategy of the government?
As I had earlier mentioned, Ibomfest is targeted at inviting investors into the state to be part of the industrialisation drive of government. So, the festival is one of the many platforms to achieve this noble goal.
Security is an issue in Nigeria. What plans do you have for visitors coming to your state?
I can boldly state that Akwa Ibom State is the safest place now in Nigeria. As such, visitors into the state will not have problems of security as there are armed security personnel everywhere, offering maximum security to all persons. Our hotels are all mobilised to clean up their environment in readiness to receive visitors. All hospitality business owners have also begun to train their staff in preparation for the festival. Local tours will be organised to allow our visitors see Akwa Ibom and its beauty.
What are some of the activities you have lined up?
The festival has four components. One of them is The Parade of Colours where all local government areas will parade in the streets of Uyo to showcase their rich cultural attires. The Beach Fashion Show which will showcase Ibeno beach, the longest stretch of sandy beach in the coast of Africa, our Akwa Ibom cuisines as well as a Boat Regatta. Since we are riverine, it’s important to showcase our strength in boat-building through this colorful boat regatta competition.
Is there provision for corporate bodies to be part of the project?
Yes Ibomfestis expected to be a public private partnership-driven project, as such we call on all corporate bodies in the country to come and be part of it be way of sponsorship or partnership to make this vision a reality. Already, some corporate bodies are beginning to make enquires while some have indicated strong interest to participate.
In all of these, what would you like to be remembered for?
By God’s special grace, I plan to build the Ibomfest Heritage Festival to be self-sponsored, attract tourist traffic yearly to the state, increase the IGR and create employment and partner development agencies and government to develop tourist sites in Akwa Ibom State.
What nugget of wisdom will you want to share with budding actors in Nigeria?
The primary advice I will offer any budding actor is that selling yourself for roles to a producer to get ahead does not work in the long run; not as well as hard work and talent. Develop your craft and always give your all in depicting any role you accept to play whether big or small. That’s what gets you noticed and that’s what wins awards.